BA100: 3. “The Face”

100 Years Of British Airways: One of the greatest airline advertisements of all time, “The Face” from 1989.

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"The Face" British Airways, 1989
“The Face” British Airways, 1989

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

When the idea for what is possibly the greatest airline advertisement of all time was presented by Saatchi & Saatchi to BA, it is existed solely as a rough scribble on a single sheet of paper.

BA had asked Saatchi to prepare a new blockbuster advertising campaign. Saatchi had presented two ideas, which by its own admission were fairly unremarkable, to an unimpressed BA.

They then pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Out came a crumpled piece of paper bearing a sketch with the fairly unappealing sight of a disconnected smiling mouth, an eye, and a nose and a scribbled face.

But BA bought into the idea. And so “The Face” was born.

The advert was directed by Hugh Hudson and filmed in Utah using local school children with a budget of £1m. Saatchi & Saatchi called on the choreographer of the Los Angeles Olympics opening ceremony to direct the movement of the participants.

To the sound of “Aria On Air” by Malcolm Mclaren, the voice-over by Tom Conti, says “Every year the world’s favourite airline brings 24 million people together.”

Save for the roar of Concorde at the end of the advert, images and sounds of aircraft are entirely absent. The advert was seen by 600 million people in 70 countries.

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